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Garda cleared of wrongdoing in giving bicycle to elderly man during pandemic

The Garda Representative Association has called out the disproportionate nature of the probe and likened it to cracking a nut with a sledgehammer.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Mar

A GARDA WHO was suspended for three years for allegedly giving an unclaimed bicycle from a garda storeroom to an elderly man during the Covid-19 pandemic has been cleared of any wrongdoing. 

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has called out the disproportionate nature of the probe and likened it to cracking “a nut with a sledgehammer”.

Sources have said that the garda, stationed in the Midlands, had given the bike to the man but had failed to fill out the necessary paperwork. 

When the incident came to light the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris suspended the experienced garda and directed the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), who investigate the most serious offences, to probe the incident. 

Detectives from the NBCI carried out searches under warrant at the garda’s home and in the station in June 2020. They also retrieved the missing bicycle from the elderly man.  

The garda suffered a suspension of three years until August 2023 when an investigation file was found to not contain any criminal behaviour. 

The Commissioner continued with a discipline probe and while the garda was back to work he was banned from dealing with the public. 

The bicycle donation case eventually came before a sworn board of inquiry, which had a lawyer, and two senior ranked gardaí presiding. The charitable garda faced five separate disciplinary regulations – which included discreditable conduct, disobedience, misuse of property and neglect of duty. 

The tribunal sat for four days and heard evidence but earlier today the trial ended and he was cleared of all allegations.  

The board’s findings must now be forwarded to the Garda Commissioner who must decide if he accepts the findings.  

When contacted for a statement a garda spokesperson said that they were unable to comment on an internal discipline matter.

Ronan Slevin, the General Secretary of the GRA, welcomed the panel’s decision but criticised strongly the discipline regime within An Garda Síochána.

“We of course welcome the panel’s decision to recommend that the Commissioner completely clears the member of any wrongdoing and look forward to the publication of the full report.

“This was a case where good, decent community policing which is at the very heart of why we are trusted by the people we serve was blown apart and relationships destroyed.

“In essence I believe a sledgehammer of discipline was used to crack a nut and the reputation of a long serving member was damaged, his honesty questioned and his livelihood threatened,” he said. 

Slevin went on to call out what he deemed a disportionate and unfair discipline system. 

“Unfortunately this once again shows the disconnect between management and those on the frontline and a lack of common sense and proportionality when investigating community facing policing issues.

“This has been systemic in AGS of late with a policy of ‘suspend first, ask questions later’ approach which has been instigated and overseen by garda management and supported by the commissioner.

“We will be raising this case and the processes involved when we meet with the Minister for Justice at her offices later today,” he added. 

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